The Beer Engine is another of those micropubs that is tucked away down a quiet side street. The location is perfect, close to the scenic canal and the town centre. Any concerns I may have had earlier in my trip about these hidden micropubs not drawing in enough passing trade have evaporated as the evidence speaks for itself, all these micropubs are doing all right – and anyway, perhaps random passers by are not the kind of customer a micropub wants – those who are actively seeking somewhere special will have done their homework and find out where the best pubs are in a town before they visit. Or will they?
Run by couple Steve and Janet and ably assisted by several bar staff, The Beer Engine is a marvellous pub in a small town that is not that blacking in decent “normal” pubs and so has some stiff competition. If you fancy a bit of a crawl, you could also try The Narrowboat, just around the corner, and The Woolly Sheep in town. Over a chat, Steve told me he used to do legal work before they opened The Beer Engine, but now the micropub is his full time vocation.
Ale is served from 5 handpumps on a traditional bar, but with a very similar setup to The Snug in that the casks are visible behind the bar. They even have the same hoist arrangement as the Snug so, hopefully, both pubs will remain hernia and backache free zones. There’s a row of pump-clips on the wall indicating which beers will be on the bar next.
Jules, who served me, explained to me that they arrange the beers by colour/style from left to right, i.e. Blonde, Pale, Golden, “Quirky”, Dark. I went for dark and quirky – my wife would not have been surprised.
I enjoyed spending the evening in the Beer Engine. I got talking to some of the drinkers there, and finally with a nice couple who had been visiting Skipton for a few days but live in Blyth, on the North East coast. The Oddfellows Arms, where I had lodged a few nights previously turned out to be their local. Small world! (This kind of thing kept happening to me – a couple at the campsite in Beal turned out to have been in the Liberty Belle in Ely about a month earlier on precisely the same night that I had visited it with a group of friends)!. Anyway, back to Alan & Sheila from Blyth, because they contradicted what I had been saying earlier about micropubs not missing good customers by being too hidden. Alan and Sheila judged the Beer Engine to be the best pub they had tried in Skipton, but despite having walked past it several times over the previous few days it was only that evening, their last night in Skipton, that they had actually realised it was a pub! So they came close to never finding it at all! I would have thought the name and the empty casks outside the front door might have given some clue as to what went on inside, but perhaps people have an inbuilt expectation that a pub should look like a “pub”.